Report: Judge texts assistant district attorney during trial

Report says judge passed note to prosecutor in case

By Joel Eisenbaum - Investigative Reporter

LIVINGSTON, Texas - In Livingston, everyone seems to know district court judge, Elizabeth Coker.

Coker is a third generation Polk County judge who has a reputation of being tough, but fair.

"I know her, I have known her dad, (he) was a judge, her grandfather was a judge," said local attorney Gene Bush.

Elizabeth Coker, 46, is a Baylor Graduate and has been on the bench for more than a decade.

"I have never seen her do anything that I consider inappropriate," said local attorney, Joe Roth.

But someone else has.

Local 2 Investigates obtained a copy of an interesting report from the Polk County District Attorney's Office.

An investigator for that agency reports he witnessed something he called very unethical. (View the report)

According to that report, Judge Coker, from the bench during a felony child abuse trial, texted a secret message to an assistant district attorney. That attorney, according to the report, then passed the judge's secret note to the prosecutor in the case. (View the note)

It is important to note the defendant in the felony child abuse case was not convicted.

"Every lawyer and judge knows you're not supposed to take part in ex-parte communications," explained James Alfini, Dean Emeritus of the South Texas College of Law.

Judge Coker did not respond to repeated requests for an interview about the controversy.

Reporter Joel Eisenbaum did catch up with the district court judge outside a Livingston nail salon, but the Judge declined to answer questions about the note.

"If it's true, it's outrageous," said Troy McKinney, of the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association.

McKinney's group is preparing to forward a formal complaint to the state, urging a review of the judge's texting practices.

The State Board of Judicial Conduct investigates judges in secret. The status of those investigations are not subject to Texas Open Records Laws so it is unclear if and when the agency will take a closer look at this issue and Judge Coker.

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